A Tender-Hearted Review by Bobak!
Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you the first "green" Neo Geo game: Ganryu is made up of 100% recycled materials from older games. Not only did they save on creativity, the also saved on reprocessing the individual pieces by simply slapping past NES-incarnations together like Frankenstein. The final program was hastily dunked in the Graphic and Sound capabilities of the Neo Geo before being released. You might call is a Neo-FrankenNES, or possibly a Neo-Enigma: A NES game masquerading as a Neo Geo game or a Neo Geo game trying really hard to be a NES game. No matter, without further due, I present the autopsy:
PREMISE: Our hero, Musashi, has beaten his great foe, Kojiro. One Month later he has gone to meet his lover (Girlfriend, wife, whatever) Otsu in Kyoto. However, a group of mysterious Ninjas have kidnapped many people in Kyoto, including Otsu (!). Who are the Ninjas, what is their plan, who is behind them, Blah, blah, blah...time for Musashi to fight once more... Blah.
Already you can see this game reeks of Nintendom. But wait, it gets better: There is a second character, "Suzume" who you can select who isn't even mentioned in the documentation. Obviously Visco had better things to do than type "or Suzume" after every Musashi in the Story. Then again, considering all the cut and pasting that went into this game, laziness shouldn't be a surprise [it has been brought to my attention that the title screen eventually mentions Suzume and her story, credit and thanks to Sakura Matsumoto].
RECIPE: I know this isn't usually a category in Video Game reviews, but I felt I'd make a special exception for Ganryu. If you want to make your very own Ganryu, gather the following items: Take about 1 cup of "Ninja Gaiden" and a pinch of "Strider" and add water until the mixture has diluted into about 4 cups. Then, add a bit of "Bionic Commando" and "Shinobi" for seasoning. Boil until completely homogenized. Finally, use SNK brand Neo Geo cake decorations (sparingly) to dress it up. Serve while wearing helmet so as to avoid injury when it is thrown back at you. Bon Appetite, you're dining alone!
GRAPHICS: The game looks like a well done, pre-"Donkey Kong Country" SNES game. The only visual sign that it's a Neo Geo game is the depth of color. Only Blue's Journey has smaller characters-sprites on the Neo. There is little or no variety in background. You're either running around a generic Japanese structure, a cave, or in the air. Period. These "No-Frills" carry you through the game (the game being 5 measly stages). The cut scenes are the same sterile pictures over and over (a few even steal a few of the falling-blossoms from Samurai Showdown with no shame). As a reference, Magician Lord had much better graphics. There are only about 5 types of generic bad guy. Three of them are the same Ninja painted (in order of difficulty) blue, green, and red; the other two are a very annoying vulture/hawk (its hard to tell) and a frog that appears once, in the whole game, on level two. What passes for character animation pales in comparison to any decent game in the past 7 years: When Musashi moves, his head stays in the exact same position. There are also two or three innocent people that run by here and there (who you can't touch...) as well as the occasional color variant of the same tied up girl who gives you one of a few power-ups. Again, sub-standard animation through and through. The most telling animation was Musashi's standing animation: all he does is sit there and play with his sword (seriously), I found it an ironic reflection of those who programmed the game.
Where's Suzume? I guess the flicker-monster got her...
SOUND: The music wasn't all to bad. Some of the background tunes had a nice Japanese drum beat to them. Not quite Ty-ko, but decent. The sound effects are laughably generic. The only discernable voice is the annoying squeak that Suzume makes when she's hit. The sound is completely out of place. Instead of sounding like a person getting smashed or slashed, it reminded me of the sound my ex-girlfriend used to make when I tickled her. Musashi may also makes a sound (I swore I heard it at one time or another), but the murmur is almost inaudible. The sword slashes are a joke, after a half-an-hour or so of playing it starts to sound more like a dog bark. It's actually quite amusing to play with that in mind: "Oh-no, a ninja!" "Bark, woof, Bark, bark!" Indeed, Musashi's bark is worse than his bite... (Hey, I know it was a bad pun, but since this whole game is a series of cliches, I thought it was appropriate).
PLAYABLITY: The controls are as tight and responsive as they need to be. The folks over at Visco were smart enough not to tweak that aspect of their sources. About 95% of the game is generic run, jump & slash and the grappling claw is only needed once to proceed in the game and as a way of accessing secret areas for the rest of game. Because the movement control is so tight, an experienced gamer should have no problem finding all the secret areas in their first or second sitting. There is very little in terms of technique. Slashing while running, ducking, and jumping will make up nearly all of your attacks. Musashi can charge his weapon and release a slightly more powerful magical-arrow-thingy, but it renders him very vulnerable and is practically useless. The claw can also be used as a weapon but is equally impractical as it can only be thrown forward! (...botching a potentially cool element from Bionic Commando). Your lives are based on a life gauge, so there is room for error. There is at least some difference between Musashi and Suzume. While Musashi is the powerful, Suzume is faster and jumps higher. Also, the power-ups change for the different characters, with Suzume getting the better armaments (Musashi's are actually weaker than his regular slash!). The single unique characteristic about Ganryu may be the slight height difference between the two characters (which actually makes the taller Musashi more useful). The difficulty level within the game is disproportionate. While the levels are rather easy to breeze through (with a few different routes), the bosses are difficult and completely methodical (They're not too hard, just very hard relative to the game). I've found after some patience and perseverance, the boss patterns can be easily mastered (the last two are an annoyance). The largest caveat I have for the game's playability is the absence of two player simultaneous mode. Borrowing from the old-school NES games, Ganryu only has two-player alternative play.
REPLAY: Once you've discovered all the paths and learned all the bosses, the only reason to keep playing would be to see how far you can get on one credit. Indeed, this game controls well enough to be fun the first few times you play. If you're the types who like to do that sort of thing, I think you'll find some extended playtime. For the rest of you, once you've beaten everyone with the unlimited continues, your time with Ganryu will be over.
OVERALL: Save your money and purchase any of the above mentioned NES games and a NES if you don't already have one. You'll get just as much as you would out of this "Neo Geo" game, maybe even more. Its amazing to see "1999" stamped on this game. Even at the Neo's debut in 1990 this game would've been written off as -maybe- above average. You can't help getting a weird sense of nostalgia when you play this game -more or less thinking: "is this all?"
The end credits for Ganryu are very quick, 12 people (including "Special Thanks"). I guess that's how many people at Visco are needed to screw in a light bulb. This game is an impotent example of a Neo Geo game. If you put it and "KOF 99" or "Metal Slug X" next to each other, a normal person would never guess they play on the same system (let alone from the same YEAR!).
Here is my official Number Break Down (keeping in mind that it is 2001 and this game was released just over a year ago):
GRAPHICS - 45%
MUSIC/SFX - 65%
PLAYABILITY - 85%
OVERALL - 60%
The people at Visco should be, at the very least, fined for crimes against technology for this inadvertent piece of retro gaming. Don't let anyone tell you that this is a top-flight Neo Geo (or any-system) game by any account.
More Reviews of This Game:
by Searchingtom - Courtesy of Kazuya's
Collection | Master List
| AES Price Guide | MVS
CD Price Guide | Neo Store | Screenshots | Reviews | Home | Email